Overcoming language barriers in health care: costs and benefits of interpreter services

Am J Public Health. 2004 May;94(5):866-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.94.5.866.


Objectives: We assessed the impact of interpreter services on the cost and the utilization of health care services among patients with limited English proficiency.

Methods: We measured the change in delivery and cost of care provided to patients enrolled in a health maintenance organization before and after interpreter services were implemented.

Results: Compared with English-speaking patients, patients who used the interpreter services received significantly more recommended preventive services, made more office visits, and had more prescriptions written and filled. The estimated cost of providing interpreter services was $279 per person per year.

Conclusions: Providing interpreter services is a financially viable method for enhancing delivery of health care to patients with limited English proficiency.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / economics
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Translating*